Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), Amalienborg Palace Square, 1896
Among Hammershøi’s pictures of architecture, Amalienborg Palace Square is the most monumental. Taking up position in Christian 8.’s (1786-1848) mansion, one of the four houses that make up the Amalienborg Palace, Hammershøi painted the view of Saly’s equestrian statue against the mansions of Frederic 5. (1723-1766) and Christian 9. (1818-1906), the latter being the present-day residence of the monarch.
A picture of architecture
The effective lighting with its intense illumination of the base and rider accentuates the monument, keeping it from disappearing against the detailed façades of the houses behind them. Hammershøi’s pictures of architecture are usually empty of people. This absence of people does not preclude traces of human activity, but by mobilising his supreme technical and compositional skill, Hammershøi seems to drain them of life.
Time in the painting
You have a sense that time not only passes very slowly, but that Hammershøi has actually succeeded in stopping time. Nor does the artist paint modern urban life or the latest buildings; he depicts the buildings of 18th century Copenhagen and their monumental architecture.